What We Know, What We Don't Know, and What We May Be Able to Foresee
An Original Essay by Emerald
Albus Dumbledore--Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Chairman of the International Confederation of
Wizards, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and recipient of the Order of Merlin First Class. Not to mention the greatest
wizard of modern times, in part because he defeated the dark wizard Grindelwald. And who can forget his being a perennial
favorite on Chocolate Frog cards? Yup, there's a lot there to, er, digest. Even so, there is still plenty we don't know
about Dumbledore. And of course there is endless speculation that can be made about his future. In this, my first try at
writing an editorial, I'm going to cover all three of these categories: what we know, what we don't know, and what we may be
able to foresee given the clues and a bit of logical reasoning.
This editorial will be split into two halves. The first half is basically a list of "items of note" concerning Professor
Dumbledore and a few comments on them. I've drawn no conclusions from the items I've listed but perhaps some of you will.
That would be just fine by me. The second half of the editorial is more like the editorials we're all used to on MuggleNet.
Just a disclaimer: I am no expert in literature, mythology, psychology, or any of the other "ologies." These are just some
of my thoughts as an amateur but passionate fan of the Harry Potter series. So here goes...
1 - Dumbledore is old, even by wizarding standards. He is about 150 years old. This means he was born shortly before or
around the beginning of the U.S. Civil War. So he has witnessed a great deal of modern history, learned much from it, and
even made some of it himself.
2 - We know nothing of Dumbledore's birth, youth, or current personal life outside of Hogwarts other than what is noted on
his Chocolate Frog Card, including the facts that he likes "chamber" music (Phoenix Song in CoS, anyone?) and tenpin bowling.
We know nothing of his parentage, whether he is a pure-blood, a half-blood, or Muggle-born. If he's from a magical family,
we know nothing about his parents' abilities or background. We do know he has a brother, Aberforth, who runs the Hogshead
Inn in Hogsmead and that Aberforth seems to be a bit of an underachiever compared to Albus.
3 - Dumbledore used to have ginger colored hair before going gray. Other ginger haired characters include the entire Weasley
family and Harry's mother, Lily Evans Potter. We do not know if Dumbledore is in any way related by blood to these or other
characters with such coloring, although it seems there is a distant relationship between redhead Arthur Weasley and the
4 - We do know he was a friend of and worked closely with Nicolas Flamel, the famous alchemist and creator of the Sorcerer's
Stone in Book 1, even though Flamel was several hundred years older than he. Dumbledore himself is quite skilled at alchemy
and has been given acclaim for discovering the 12 uses of dragon's blood.
- We do not know how Dumbledore and Flamel met or why they became such close friends despite their age difference.
- We do not know if Flamel was Dumbledore's mentor, as is often the case when a much older person befriends a younger
- We do not know what the 12 uses of dragon's blood are (apart from a "highly effective oven cleaner") or how Dumbledore
discovered them, nor if he were already a Transfiguration professor at the time of his discovery. Might the uses be included
in transfiguration work? And just how did he come by enough dragon's blood to discover twelve uses?!
- We do not know if these uses are important to Charlie Weasley's current work with dragons or whether that work might
necessitate him coming more under Dumbledore's direct influence in future books.
- We do not know what other alchemical achievements Dumbledore may have made.
- We do not know if he, too, ever created a Sorcerer's Stone or if he would do so again if he thought it necessary.
5 - Dumbledore taught Transfiguration before becoming Hogwarts Headmaster.
- This implies he is a master of transfiguration and he thus can transfigure objects, animals...perhaps even people.
- We do not know if he is an animagus as Prof. McGonagall is and as has been suggested by Erin Linn in The Quibbler #1,
Flying High with Dumbledore. If he is an animagus, he is unregistered. While this may not seem to suit his position as
headmaster of the most prestigious wizarding school in the world, it may indeed suit his personality. He's the type of
person to have as many tricks up his sleeve as he feels may be necessary to use in the future, should sufficient need arise.
He sees much, rarely misses anything, and is very, very good at putting together pieces of a puzzle no one else even realizes
exists. So such tricks often do come in handy for him. In other words, I wouldn't put it past him.
- We do not know if Dumbledore has a specialty when it comes to transfiguration.
- We do not know what items we have encountered to date that may have been transfigured by him.
- While a student himself at Hogwarts, we know he was in Gryffindor House and that he continues in numerous ways to show
his loyalty to it. (An interesting "coincidence" - the current Transfiguration teacher, Professor McGonagall, is now head of
Gryffindor House. Might transfiguration be of special use to those who are brave of heart, such as Gryffindors?)
- We do not know how Dumbledore came to teach at Hogwarts or what he did during his adult years after leaving school
himself before becoming a teacher.
- We do not know how Dumbledore, or anyone else, has been chosen to head the school. We know that some of the decision
lies with the twelve school governors, but we do not know the specific mechanism for choosing a headmaster.
- We do not know under what circumstances the previous headmaster, Armando Dippet, died or otherwise left his post.
6 - We know Dumbledore somehow knows almost everything that occurs at Hogwarts and a good deal of what occurs elsewhere as
well. How does he manage this? In his Phoenix Files #2
Christopher Stephen mentioned Dumbledore's use of both the castle paintings and Fawkes to gather information. Here are some
other methods we know he uses and some he may use:
- He reads Muggle newspapers to keep up with goings-on in their world.
- He speaks the language of numerous magical species, including Mermish.
- He has wizarding information contacts (aka spies) who tell him things he could not easily learn otherwise about
activity within the magical world. It's likely that not all of these contacts live in the world of paintings.
- Dumbledore may well be half Demiguise, a creature capable of disappearing at will. (See Fantastic Beasts and Where
to Find Them by Newt Scamander, page 9.) He tells us in Book 1 that he does "not need a cloak to become invisible." (See
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, American hardback, page 213.) In fact, such cloaks may be made from the same
fine, silvery hair that makes up the pelt of a Demiguise and which resembles Dumbledore's own hair. Perhaps his own ability
to disappear at will is in part how he secretly keeps tabs on so many goings-on. (Just a bit of speculation here - perhaps
the cloak Harry supposedly inherited from his father, James, which was apparently kept in storage by Dumbledore after James'
death, was actually made by Dumbledore from his own hair.)
- Dumbledore is also a gifted legilimens and occlumens. Therefore, he can sense other people's thoughts and emotions as
well as endeavor to keep his own away from the prying minds of anyone wishing to unveil his thoughts. He may very well come
by some of his vast awareness of events through the first of these gifts.
- While he may seem absentminded at times, this may well be a public face Dumbledore puts on to obscure his keen
wareness of what goes on around him at Hogwarts and throughout the wizarding world. Who would suspect a congenial but
dottering old man of being a strategic mastermind? This form of deception in furtherance of intelligence gathering has been
used by no less than Sherlock Holmes himself. Even for those who know better of Dumbledore, this is an excellent way to lull
them into a false sense of security while around him and lead them to say more than they might otherwise.
Keeping all these facts in mind, it's now time to speculate on how Dumbledore's role in the Harry Potter
continue to develop. Yes, our headmaster seems absentminded at times; but I believe that in actuality Dumbledore is in no
way senile! He may be getting older, finally showing his advanced years and slowing down to some degree, but he is still
completely competent. Part of his apparent tiredness likely stems from the immense strain he has been under for more than a
quarter of a century now. Even before Harry's birth and subsequently perilous life journey, Voldemort had been active for
over 10 years, requiring constant vigilance on Dumbledore's part. That's a very long time for anyone, let alone a man of
Dumbledore's age, to keep up a struggle.
Even so, Dumbledore has been able to muster an impressive inner fire on more than one occasion when it was necessary for him
to defend Harry. In the imposter Moody's office, after Harry has returned from his near-fatal graveyard rendezvous with
Voldemort in GoF, and again in the Ministry of Magic, when Harry is nearly killed by Voldemort in OotP, Dumbledore radiates
an intense aura of power and righteous wrath. It would seem he is more than up to the physical task of protecting Harry. It
is the emotional task, with its much more nuanced ins and outs, that seems to have taxed him so. With worse to come for
Harry, how will Dumbledore hold up? Or will he?
A momentary aside...I do wonder if Dumbledore ever had children of his own. It would seem JKR would have told us that by now
if it were so, but perhaps not. Perhaps his own family perished during Grindelwald's reign or early in Voldemort's. More
likely, though, is that he never raised his own children. Despite his vast experience in shepherding the young students of
Hogwarts, he may never have been solely responsible for the deeply complex emotional maturation process of a child. That may
be why the emotional aspect of protecting Harry, even from Harry's own willfulness--not to mention Voldemort's mind
games--has proven so tiring for him. And more simply, he may realize that at this point in the game there is only so much
more he can do to further guide Harry through the labyrinth of dangers and choices he must face. His role may be coming to
an end and his regret at any mistakes he has made along the way may wear more heavily on him because of it.
Will Dumbledore live through the end of the series? As Harry's mentor he has been absolutely vital to Harry's continued
safety and growth so far. But the closer Harry comes to maturity, both emotionally and magically, the less necessary
Dumbledore is to the storyline. Indeed, in literature the death or loss of one's mentor often marks the passage into
independent adulthood. It is a turning point where all that the young hero has learned until then must be tested and found
either worthy or lacking. No hero figure can completely come of age while his mentor still remains in the story. While Harry
has come a long, long way in his magical abilities, and even in his emotional makeup, there is still much he must learn. So,
for now, I think Dumbeldore will remain.
If he is to take his leave from us I believe it will have to wait until some other momentous event has taken place in
Harry's life and Harry has processed his feelings about it. The death of a mentor usually leaves a hero feeling unsure of
himself and sometimes so distraught that his future success is questionable. The stakes in the HP storyline are so large--the
continued existence of the free world, both magical and Muggle--that I feel Harry will have to have regained, and continue
to retain, enough chutzpah to hang on despite the shock of Dumbledore's demise. Harry has lost so much already in his young
life it only seems appropriate that he be closer to self-confident maturity than he currently is before his
There is also the possibility that Dumbledore may at some point face the choice of laying down his own life voluntarily to
protect Harry, rather than die in a duel or battle situation. If Nicolas Flamel was indeed Dumbledore's mentor, his
voluntary departure in Book 1 may foreshadow a similar decision by Dumbledore, perhaps in Book 7. Flamel had continued to
live to the age of 666 (or more) thanks to the Sorcerer's Stone. When it became apparent that the Stone was too much a
temptation to the immortality-obsessed Voldemort, Flamel volunteered to destroy it and, thus, end his own life. As was
required by his own possible mentor, so Dumbledore may have to do as well.
But as Harry's own continued existence is also in doubt by the end of Book 7, perhaps the death of his mentor would be a
moot point and Dumbledore will survive him. Dumbledore seems to understand much of what Voldemort did in order to make
himself as close to immortal as possible. He also seems to understand more of what went wrong with the process than
Voldemort does. If Harry is indeed the one slated for death, especially if it is a symbolic death of transformation rather
than a true physical death, Dumbledore's presence may continue to be vital. He may need to be present to assist in such a
transformation, to supply a catalyst that will enable Harry to survive it and start life anew. Such an act on Dumbledore's
part may even entail sacrificing himself so that Harry may live on, in whatever form he survives the vanquishing of the Dark
Lord. Should that be the case, who can say what attributes Harry may gain from Dumbledore's self-sacrifice, even as he loses
those imparted through Voldemort's failed death curse so many years ago. Who can say? Well, JKR of course.
However she pulls all the loose threads together, I can hardly wait to watch her genius unfold. No doubt whatever form it
takes will be brilliant. Even if Dumbeldore does pass through the veil, I'll still be very grateful to Ms. Rowling for
having given us the chance to know him. Albus Dumbledore - what a guy!
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